RALEIGH, N.C.—The Carolina Hurricanes put an old goalie in net and welcomed back their teenage draft pick. With the game tied, another young star set up their greying captain’s go-ahead goal.
That blend of young and old has the surging Hurricanes on the verge of a sweep.
Sebastian Aho assisted on Justin Williams’ key goal with 9:45 remaining, and Carolina beat the New York Islanders 5-2 on Wednesday night to take a 3-0 lead in their second-round series.
Teuvo Teravainen had two goals, including an empty-netter with 57.1 seconds remaining, Justin Faulk also scored and Aho added another empty-net goal with 4.8 seconds to play.
The wild-card Hurricanes, in the playoffs for the first time in a decade, moved within a victory of a berth in the Eastern Conference final and took a 3-0 series lead for just the second time since they moved to North Carolina in 1997.
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After losing the first two games of its first-round series with Washington, Carolina has won seven of eight and will try for the sweep Friday night.
“The next game’s always the toughest,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “They’re not going to go away. We know that. These games have all been tight — one-goal games, essentially — and it’s going to be like that on Friday.”
Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist and Devon Toews scored on the power play to spark a dormant Islanders offence. New York had scored one goal in the first two games of this series and its average of 21/2 goals in its previous six post-season games was the lowest among the eight teams that are still playing.
But it wasn’t enough to keep them from a precarious spot. After sweeping Pittsburgh in the first round, the Islanders are in danger of being swept. Only four teams in NHL history have won a series after losing the first three games.
“It’s a big mountain, but we’ve dug in many times this year when people doubted us,” coach Barry Trotz said. “So we’re just going to have to dig in. … We have to earn the right to keep playing. That’s it. It’s do or die.”
Curtis McElhinney, who at 35 years and 343 days old became the oldest goalie in NHL history to make his first playoff start, stopped 28 shots in place of Petr Mrazek, who is day to day with a lower body injury. After McElhinney made two bang-bang saves in the second period while doing a split, the crowd chanted his first name.
“It’s one of those timely saves that you need to come up with at certain points of the game,” McElhinney said, “and tonight, it was there for me.”
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Robin Lehner stopped 34 shots for the Islanders, but his career record against the Hurricanes fell to 0-7 with four losses in the regular season and three more in this series.
It took an impressive individual effort for Aho to put the Hurricanes ahead to stay.
After Nino Niederreiter dumped the puck in, Lehner played it behind the net only to have Aho snatch it in the corner and pass to Williams, who chipped it past the Islanders goalie.
“Every time we get pucks deep, good things will happen,” Aho said.
New York couldn’t get Lehner off the ice for an extra attacker until about 90 seconds remained, and if Teravainen didn’t ice it with his empty-netter in the final minute, Aho certainly did with his.